Monday, October 29, 2007

Week Two - Day One - Prosecution Rests

Philip Munger: Attempting to tidy up the least tidy of the three GOP oil legislation corruption cases brought forth so far by the U.S. Department of Justice against prominent former Alaska legislators, U.S. Attorney Joseph Bottini brought a sitting state senator, an ex commissioner of corrections, the head of the ethics office of the Alaska Public Offices Commission and two FBI agents into the courtroom to testify about their relation to the Vic Kohring case. None resonated fully in respect to deepening the facts about the charging documents. Although the morning's proceedings revealed new information - mostly about potentially new cases - this afternoon's testimony seemed to merely provide the public with an e-mail exchange between Kohring and ex-Veco VP Rick Smith; and a gossip-laden "Red Carpet List." Both had been extracted by the FBI from Kohring's Wasilla legislative office's computer hard drive.

The list is available at the Anchorage Daily News political blog. The only surprise name to me on the list was in the last category - "Supporters." Back from the brink of local forgetfulness comes Pete Zamarello, about whom I commented after the first day of the trial. I had no idea Pete was still a player in local politics.

The undercover videos made by Frank Prewitt were underwhelming compared to those featured at the beginning of the trial showing Kohring whoring for any scrap he could beg from Allen. The silliest testimony of the trial was given by a woman who heads the Ethics Office of the Alaska Public Offices Commission. She's from Minnesota, a recent emigre to the farther North. She spoke the most fluent beauraucratese I've heard recently. She seemed to have page after chapter of Alaska Statutes and Administrative Code memorized word for word. With the Minnesota accent, I couldn't figure out if she should be a skit from Prairie Home Companion, or with the government-speak, from Monty Python. I couldn't see how her testimony bolstered the Feds' case.

And that goes for a lot of the rest of the testimony heard this afternoon. It was somewhat underwhelming. It certainly didn't tidy up the loose ends I'd been wondering about all week long.

The defense opens tomorrow. It will be a very minimalist show. John Henry Browne had hoped to present three (ex-Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink, Big Lake fireworks magnate Bob Hall and one other - no, NOT Pete Zamarello) as witnesses as to Kohring's use of the term "I'll do anything you want," "Is there anything I can do to help," and so forth. Which leaves the defense with whether or not to call Kohring to the stand.

I'm not ready to make any predictions, but, in spite of my admiration for some of the tactical elements of Bottini's handling of this, overall, I'd call the U.S. presentation sketchy. For the amount of money they spent flying people in and out of Anchorage to testify in this case alone, they could have acted on Ray Metcalfe's information a year earlier and bagged a whole herd of bigger game before Metcalfe's exposure of Ben Stevens brought the most wary crooks back behind the tree line.

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